Over the last few years, some of the teachers that I support have begun assessing learning without interrupting it in order to test kids. Their commitment to documentation is leading to the development of far better interventions. That’s not why I’m blogging about it, though. It seems that steeping ourselves in this kind of learning isn’t merely increasing our expertise, it’s igniting our curiosities and re-energizing us. As we make our own learning transparent to students, our relationships with them  seem to be changing in interesting ways too.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Last spring, I was invited to coach in a high school English classroom comprised of very diverse learners including some special education students. Eager to build their stamina for reading complex text, I chatted with the class informally about my intentions first, inviting them to share their thoughts and experiences with throughout the lesson. In short, I told them what I was curious about, what I would be studying as we worked together, and how they could help me learn more.

I told them that I was genuinely interested in their perspectives and input. They took this very seriously.

Making my own learning purposes and processes transparent for students shifted the traditional teacher-student dynamic significantly. Kids were sensitive to my curiosities throughout each lesson and eager to help me learn. They sunk into our work together quickly, and I found them assuming reflective stances far more often than I typically do. They even began identifying documentation-worthy moments and artifacts.

What would happen if you told your students what you were eager to learn more about in order to become a better teacher? What if you enlisted their help as you engaged in inquiry and documentation? What could be gained by including students in the analysis of the data gathered?

Interested in learning more? 

Then plan to stop by over the next few weeks. I’m devoting a series of posts to the pursuit of these questions. Beyond unpacking grounded theory and what I’m discovering about documenting learning made visible, I plan to share promising protocols, strategies, and resources too.

It all starts with grounded theory methodology. 

I won’t lie: grounded theory can be a messy methodology. In fact, it reminds me of the writing process. The phases are different of course, but the way we move from one to the next is quite similar. How we learn along the way is as well. These are the 8 states I’ve watched the teachers I support move through and often, double-back on too–particularly when the work of one state inspires them to improve another:

1. Forming guiding questions

2. Establishing habits of documentation

3. Making learning visible and documenting it in just-right ways

4. Engaging others in order to gain insight and feedback

5. Displaying the data

6. Analyzing the data

7. Theorizing

8. Using what is learned to formulate or refine questions

Future posts will fall around these phases. I’ll do my best to make my learning and work as transparent as possible, and I’ll try to frame everything in a way that might allow you to replicate it.

Please jump into the comments whenever your compelled to and connect with me on Twitter through the #document4learning hashtag too. Grateful to Silvia Tolisano for starting this conversation and inviting me to the table. I hope to see you there.


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